ERZ gymnastics team beats Coon Rapids as seniors reflect on careers
When Jenny Vargas started coaching ERZ gymnastics, she was like a freshman herself, trying to figure out how to earn respect, connect with her gymnasts and get the best out of the team, both as an assistant and then a head coach.
As she blossomed as a coach, her gymnasts thrived as well. She’s spent the last three or four years with seniors Molly McChesney, Lainey Boyer, Caitlyn Reeves and Krista Kovar, which is why Vargas was so emotional when her four seniors closed out their ERZ careers on Senior Night on Thursday.
Vargas promised herself she wouldn’t cry, and she didn’t, but she spoke with genuine emotion after ERZ’s 143.65-129.975 win over Coon Rapids. Many of her gymnasts did cry, especially as they said kind words about one another, reminiscing about all the incredible memories they’ll share forever.
“They’ve pushed me as a coach,” Vargas said. “That’s what I love about those girls. They’ve challenged me to be better and think outside the box. These seniors are true leaders.”
Before the hugs, the tears and the speeches, the Elks turned in one of their best meets of the season. Kovar finished with an all-around score of 36.65, earning a 9.52 on floor and a 9.2 on bars. Reeves was just behind her, at 35.725, scoring 9.25 on floor and 9.125 on beam.
Lauren Krall scored 35.675, earning a mark of 8.925 on bars and 8.9 on beam. Katelyn Hagel finished in fourth, at 35.6, scoring 9.3 on floor and 8.975 on vault.
Vargas has pushed her team to score in the 140s. Earlier in the season, the Elks couldn’t quite reach that mark, but now they’re shattering it routinely.
“The whole point is to grow and get better, slowly but surely, and now I think we’re right where we need to be for sections next week,” Vargas said. “I’m really happy with the performances tonight.”
The four seniors discussed both their overall experiences with ERZ gymnastics and their fondest memories:
It’s been really fun and emotional, too. Growing up with these girls has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. They made me into the person I am today, and I’m really grateful for that.
The last four years on this team have been incredible. I love every single person on this team like family, and I’m so excited to go to practice every single day. I’m so sad it’s over. It’s been the best experience of my high school career, and I’m really happy that it happened.
Joining as a sophomore, feeling welcome right away by all the girls, it really helped. It’s a strong-knit team, and obviously I’m going to miss it a lot.
This team is like my second family. I’ve been on it for five years, and I’ve watched girls come in and out of here. It’s made me into the person I am today. I started out as a shy, quiet person, and gymnastics brought me out of my shell. I made so many good friends in Rogers and Zimmerman, and I don’t know what I’d do without it. I love coming to practice, I love all the girls and it just stinks that it’s all coming to an end.
One of my favorite moments, I think, was last year we had an invite in Moorhead. I had the best beam of my life, and then went to my next event, floor, and didn’t even do my first pass. It was just awful. But I still had the girls there cheering me on, and we turned it into a joke now, so it’s pretty funny.
Probably my favorite, or looking back on it now it’s my favorite because it’s the most funny, is when I was on floor and I wasn’t feeling good all day. I did my first pass and started to puke a little in my mouth, but then I looked forward and there was my coach standing right there. I decided I couldn’t puke all over her. I had to finish my routine and then puke. It’s funny looking back on it.
I think the best moments was just watching everyone continuously improve, and ERZ finally getting back to the 140 marks, and even breaking those marks, was just awesome.
Honestly, there’s not just one favorite moment. Five years has gone by, and there’s been so many funny times. The two practices, we were supposed to condition, and Jenny just goes, ‘Dance party.’ So, for the next 15 minutes, we dance, and it’s just fun to see that other side of the person. A few other ones would be going out to eat before meets, or the conversations when you’re braiding other girls’ hair.
ERZ breaks into separate teams now for sections, and potentially states. Their season isn’t over yet, but Thursday marked the end of what all four seniors consider one of the best team experiences of their life.
“We’re all just grateful to have been a part of this team, and I think it’s built every one of us into the person we are today,” McChesney said. “Graduating with this group of girls is probably one of the best things that will happen to me, and I’ll take it with me forever.”
ERZ gymnastics posts highest score of season once again in victory over Cougars
Meet by meet, the ERZ gymnastics team’s score is continuing to rise. The Elks have gone from 138.3 on Jan. 7, to 142.3 on Jan. 16, to now 143.2 – their highest mark of the year – in a win over Centennial on Thursday, Jan. 21.
The Elks beat the Cougars 143.2-128.375, as Krista Kovar, Lauren Krall, Caitlyn Reeves and Katelyn Hagel finished first through fourth overall.
“We rocked it tonight,” head coach Jenny Vargas said. “Honestly, our best meet of the year.”
Kovar finished with an all-around score of 36.45, scoring 9.525 on floor and 9.5 on beam. Krall scored 35.835, earning a 9.2 on beam and at least an 8.5 in all three other events. Reeves scored above 9 on beam and floor, finishing with a total of 35.575. Hagel scored a 9.225 on floor and earned a total of 34.925.
Vargas has worked on helping Krall and Olivia Hansen flip their vaults, and both did so in a meet for the first time against Centennial.
“I’ve been working on them before and I never got to do them, so I was really glad when I got to come here,” Krall, a freshman, said. “We’ve been working on them at (Twin City Twisters) for a while, so it was nice to be able to do it with (Hansen).”
Vargas was also excited that Krall got a 9.2 on beam, because she believes Krall should consistently be in the 9s there. She said Thursday was the team’s best beam performance of the season, as Kovar, Krall, Reeves and Hagel all finished 8.6 or better.
Sometimes the little things can make a huge difference in the final score, and the Elks are starting to peak at the right time of the season and perfect those nuances.
“I’m so happy,” Hagel said. “We’ve worked so hard this season. We’re just cleaning up our landings and polishing off our routines, and it’s all adding up. It’s really nice.”
ERZ gymnastics finishes with highest score of season at invite
The ERZ gymnastics team has been trying to reach the 140 mark all season. The Elks have come close repeatedly, but fallen just short. On Saturday, though, at the Tumble in the Jungle Invite at Maple Lake Middle School, ERZ finally hit that mark.
And the Elks didn’t barely sneak over the 140 mark. They shattered it, scoring 142.6 and finishing in first of six teams.
Here are some results:
Vault: Katelyn Hagel 9.25 (2), Caitlyn Reeves 9.1 (3), Krista Kovar 9.0 (5), Lauren Krall 8.8 (6) and Hannah Finstad 8.45 (12)
Bars: Krista Kovar 9.1 (1), Lauren Krall 9.05 (2), Hagel and Reeves 8.7 (3T), Megan Otten 7.65 (8)
Beam: Reeves 9.0 (1), Kovar 8.65 (2), Hagel 8.6 (3), Krall 8.45 (5), Morgan Wallmow 7.8 (9)
Floor: Kovar 9.5 (1), Hagel 9.05 (3), Reeves 8.95 (5), Krall 8.7 (10), Olivia Hansen 8.35 (15)
All-Around: Clean sweep for the Elks. Kovar 36.25 (1), Reeves 35.75 (2), Hagel 35.6 (3) and Krall 35.0 (4)
ERZ gymnastics improves, still hopes to score in 140s soon
All season long, the ERZ gymnastics team’s goal has been to make it into the 140s. Though the Elks still aren’t quite there, Thursday’s meet was a step in the right direction.
Elk River posted its highest score of the season, beating Anoka 139.05-134.15 at Elk River High. The Elks scored higher than the Tornadoes in bars, beam and floor, racking up at least 34 points in all four events.
“I’m really happy, but I really wanted to be at that 140 because I know we can do it,” head coach Jenny Vargas said. “We still have something to work for, and that’s good. We know we can do better.”
Krista Kovar came in second place overall with a score of 35.95. she posted a 9.45 on floor – the highest mark on the team this season – and at least an 8.7 in every other event. Caitlyn Reeves came in third with a score of 34.55, recording 9.1 on beam to lead all gymnasts.
Katelyn Hagel was right behind Reeves, racking up 34.3 points. Her best event was floor, where she earned an 8.8, and she scored at least an 8 in all four events. Lauren Krall came in sixth with 33.6 points, earning a team-high 8.9 on bars and an 8.5 on vault.
Vargas knew Krall, a freshman, would be a terrific addition to the team coming into the season.
“I can always tell by a gymnast’s form and the way they do things where they’re going to be at,” Vargas said. “Now she just needs to work on consistency, and we’ve also added more difficulty into her events. She’s really been improving, so that’s good.”
Kovar called Krall her “mini-me,” adding that Krall has so much potential for the end of this year and the three years following.
“She’s already scoring really high on varsity,” Kovar said. “She’s just an amazing, hard-working kid.”
Kovar started a new floor routine a few weeks ago, she’s continued to become more comfortable with the routine ever since. She said she thrives off energy and having fun with the routine, and that the rest falls into place.
She loves trying to get the crowd and judges into the event, and she doesn’t worry about making her passes because she’s practiced them hundreds of times.
“Her form’s always been basically perfect, and so it’s nothing new to her to just do it like this,” Reeves said of Kovar’s floor routine. “She just wants to go out every meet like it’s her last and just have fun.”
ERZ gymnastics excels in meet, enacts revenge on Park Center
Coming into their match against Park Center on Thursday, the Elks were seeking revenge.
The Pirates beat Elk River last season and had been on a hot streak of late, but the Elks knew they had a shot to win the meet. They did just that, claiming a 138.3-127.6 victory at home. Krista Kovar, Katelyn Hagel and Caitlyn Reeves all shined for the Elks, who posted one of their best overall scores of the season.
Despite the strong performance, Kovar still believes her team can achieve more.
“Honestly, we’ve got a lot to improve,” Kovar said. “I feel like we did a pretty good job at getting at least four of the fives scores to be good, but we have so much time still. We can improve so much more. I’m ready to get in the 140s, myself.”
During the week, the Elks did more “mental practice” on beam than usual. Head coach Jenny Vargas told everyone to stop what they were doing and go on the beam one at a time with their teammates watching.
She said that mental preparation of performing under pressure helped her team immensely Thursday night. Though they can still improve on beam, the Elks outscored the Pirates 34.175-31.5 in that event.
Hagel finished second all around, behind Park Center’s Hailey Illi, with an overall score of 35. She racked up 9.35 points on floor, 8.7 on beam, 8.375 on vault and 8.3 on bars.
“She flipped her vault for the first time this year last night at like 8:30, and she manages to stick two today,” Kovar said of Hagel. “This girl’s got so much potential. I can’t wait to come back and watch her rock it. She’s going to state again, and I hope to join her.”
Kovar, meanwhile, finished fourth overall with a score of 34.85. She scored 9.35 on floor, 8.7 on bars, 8.425 on vault and 8.375 on beam. Vargas gave Kovar a new floor routine over winter break, and Kovar worked for hours to perfect it.
Thursday was her first chance to flaunt the new routine in a meet, and she didn’t disappoint.
Krista Kovar excelled overall for Elk River, particularly on floor.
“After she did it, I knew it was her best one all year,” Vargas said. “I’m sure it felt really good, too.”
“It’s new, so it was the first time that everyone saw it,” Kovar said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to make this good and show everyone what I’ve got.’”
Reeves finished fifth overall, recording a score of 33.95. She scored 8.95 on vault, 8.8 on beam (the highest of all competitors), 8.275 on bars and 7.925 on floor.
Lauren Krall finished sixth overall, posting a score of 7.95 of better in all four events, and the Elks had four of the top six scorers overall.
“We have so much team spirit, and we always push each other,” Hagel said.
ERZ beats Blaine/Andover in gymnastics
The ERZ gymnastics team beat Blaine/Andover, 136.625-123.75, on Tuesday night at Elk River High.
The Elks earned 35.35 points on floor, 33.65 on beam and bars and 33.975 on vault. Krista Kovar, Lauren Krall and Caitlyn Reeves finished 1-2-3 in vault, bars and beam, and Katelyn Hagel came in first in floor with a score of 9.275.
Photo by Trevor Hass Megan Otten competes in floor for the Elks on Tuesday.
Photo by Trevor Hass
Megan Otten competes in floor for the Elks on Tuesday.
“Some really great performances and some not the best,” head coach Jenny Vargas said. “That’s OK. We’re going to get those out of the way and have a good break.”
Vargas said vault and bars were good, but beam and floor could be better. The Elks are off until Jan. 7 when they host Park Center at 6:30 p.m.
ERZ gymnastics drops tight meet against Maple Grove, continues to improve score
ERZ gymnastics head coach Jenny Vargas is trying a different approach this season. Rather than trying to mix big skills in right away, she’s making sure her team is getting better and mastering the basics.
So far, that method has worked perfectly, as the Elks’ team score has improved every meet three meets into the season. On Thursday, though ERZ lost to Maple Grove by less than a point (138.75-138.425), that’s OK with Vargas because her gymnasts had their best performance to date.
Katelyn Hagel had one of her best meets ever on the same day she turned 16 and got her license.
“The plan is to keep getting better scores,” Vargas said, “and then hopefully we can add a few more skills in so our difficulty’s a little bit higher to be where we need to be at the end of the season.”
The Elks and Crimson finished within one point of each other in all four events, and there was little separating the two teams. ERZ’s Krista Kovar finished second overall with a score of 35.2750, scoring over 9 on both the beam and floor. Elks Caitlyn Reeves and Katelyn Hagel tied for third overall, compiling 34.5000 points each. Hagel earned a terrific score of 9.4000 on floor.
Hagel said Thursday was one of the best days she’s had in a while. Not only did she have one of her best meets, but she turned 16 and got her license.
“It’s been a blast,” she said. “I’ve had so much fun today.”
Lauren Krall, who is new to the team this season, earned an all-around score of 34.0000 for sixth place. The Elks had four of the top six finishers, but Nadia Abid scored 36.0250, which helped the Crimson prevail by an extremely slim margin.
ERZ gymnastics hosts, excels in Flip for a Cure event
Elk River’s varsity gymnastics squad finished in third place in its Flip for a Cure event on Saturday.
The Elks earned 136.5 points, 1.4 points behind Sartell and three points behind winner Maple Grove. Elk River beat Wayzata, Anoka, Blaine/Andover, Princeton and Irondale/Spring Lake Park to claim third of eight.
“We improved our team score by three points and still have room for improvement,” head coach Jenny Vargas said.
Caitlyn Reeves finished first overall on beam with a score of 9.4 and shined in all areas. Krista Kovar, Katelyn Hagel and Lauren Krall all had strong meets as well.
The Elks junior varsity team won its meet with a team total of 122.45, beating out Sartell by less than a point.
Saturday’s event wasn’t only about gymnastics. Elk River has always held a big invitational, and one with extra meaning, in the past. Before Flip for a Cure, the event was called the Dana Hunt Invitational.
Hunt coached the Elk River gymnastics program in the 1980s and 1990s, bringing three teams to state and helping the team capture one conference championship. She passed away at age 35 as a result of breast cancer.
In 2013 and 2014, Flip for a Cure was dedicated to raising awareness for cystic fibrosis in honor of Vargas’ daughter, Jayda. This year, the event helped raise awareness for pancreatic cancer in honor of current gymnast Karlie Hall’s father, Don.
Don Hall was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in September. All three of the Hall sisters have been involved in the ERZ gymnastics program – Kate from 2006-2009, Kassie from 2007-2011 and Karlie, who is a junior at Rogers High School and in her fourth season as an ERZ gymnast.
When Vargas and her sister took over the program four years ago they didn’t host the invite initially.
“Invitationals are a lot of work,” Vargas said, “and we didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew that first year.”
The next year, though, they decided they wanted to bring the event back with the purpose of still honoring Hunt and also giving the team the option to “flip” for a cause it felt passionate about.
Vargas said there was a lot of love and support at the meet this year, and many of the participants from a variety of teams wore purple ribbons in their hair.
ERZ gymnastics team shines in 1st meet of season
For senior gymnastics captain Caitlyn Reeves, Tuesday’s home meet against Irondale/Spring Lake Park was a bittersweet occasion.
Morgan Wallmow competes on bars. It was Wallmow’s first meet since she tore her ACL last season.
Reeves tried to focus on the positives – that the season was underway and she was back competing with her teammates – but she said it was also quite sad to take part in her last first high school meet ever. Though it’s Reeves’ last season competing for ERZ, she has a long way to go until the year and her high school career are over.
First, she and her teammates have an entire season ahead of them, and they started that season with a 133.325-102.5 victory over the Knights and Panthers. Reeves, fellow captains Krista Kovar and Morgan Wallmow and freshman Lauren Krall, among others, all shined for Elk River.
“Honestly, I was really excited about today’s performances,” head coach Jenny Vargas said. “I think we’re right where we need to be, and I’m really pleasantly surprised by their routines tonight.”
Lauren Krall competed in her first varsity meet Tuesday, and Jenny Vargas said Krall will be a strong addition to the team.
Reeves finished first in the all-around with a score of 34.5, earning a 9.2 mark in her floor routine and a 9.025 score on the beam. Kovar earned a score of 33.1, receiving a mark of 8.925 on the floor and 8.15 on bars. Katelyn Hagel posted a score of 9 on the floor and 8.825 on the beam, earning second place behind Reeves in both events. Krall, in her first varsity meet, tallied a score of 30.8, scoring 8.2 on floor and 7.975 in both vault and bars.
Vargas said the team’s strongest event of the night was floor. The Elks showed poise in their routines, as five gymnasts finished with a tally of eight or higher. Katelyn Hagel scored a nine on her floor routine, and all five top floor finishers were Elks.
While floor was the area in which ERZ excelled the most, the Elks were balanced all around and didn’t have any sub-par showings.
“We did really good for our first meet,” Reeves said. “We came out strong, considering all the breaks we’ve been having. After Thanksgiving break, that’s tough to come back from. We’re very consistent in what we do, and we’re always supporting each other during meets.”
Vargas said Reeves and Kovar are terrific captains because they lead by example and remain focused during meets.
Kovar said the fact that there are so many strong gymnasts means that the members of the team constantly push each other in practice. There’s pressure to perform, which gives added incentive and makes the overall product much more successful.
“We have a lot of depth, and the fact that we have three schools coming into one team means we have a lot more opportunity to get younger girls and build the program up,” Kovar said.
Vargas said it’s still too early to gauge how good the Elks can be as a team, but she’s confident a lot of girls on the team have the potential to go to state.
Related Web Links